Guinea's Ebola Epidemic Unprecedented


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The Ebola outbreak that began in Guinea in January is becoming an unprecedented epidemic and has health agencies extremely concerned.

Confirmed cases are now scattered across several locations that are far apart, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, (Doctors without Borders) said on Monday.

“We are facing an epidemic of a magnitude never before seen in terms of the distribution of cases in the country: Gueckedou, Macenta Kissidougou, Nzerekore, and now Conakry,” said Mariano Lugli, the Doctors Without Borders coordinator there.

A total of 122 patients are suspected of contracting Ebola and 78 have died, Doctors Without Borders said. This deadly virus, for which there is no treatment or cure, causes vomiting, diarrhea, redness in the eyes, swelling of the genitals, internal and external bleeding (some patients may have blood coming from their eyes, nose, mouth, ears, or rectum) and a bleeding rash over the entire body.

Most victims have been in Guinea, but the World Health Organization (WHO) reported Sunday that two deaths in Sierra Leone and one in Liberia are suspected to have been caused by the Ebola virus.

Cases have been identified in three provinces in Guinea near the borders and in Conakry, its coastal capital, said Lugli. Previous outbreaks "were much more geographically contained and involved more remote locations," he said.

"This geographical spread is worrisome, because it will greatly complicate the tasks of the organizations working to control the epidemic," Lugli continued.

The outbreak of one of the world's most lethal infectious diseases has spooked a number of governments with weak health care systems, and caused Senegal to close its border with Guinea and other neighbors in an effort to restrict travel and cross-border spreading.

Figures released overnight by Guinea's health ministry showed that there had been 78 deaths from 122 cases of suspected Ebola since January, up from 70. Of these, there were 22 laboratory-confirmed cases of Ebola, the ministry said.

The outbreak of Ebola - which causes death in up to 90 percent of those infected - has centered around Guinea's southeast. But it took authorities six weeks to identify the disease, allowing it to spread over borders and to more populated areas.

Up to 400 people are identified as potential Ebola contacts in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, Tarik Jasarevic, spokesman for the U.N.'s World Health Organization (WHO), told Reuters. "We need find where these people are and check on them," he said.

Regional airline Gambia Bird delayed services to Conakry, due to start on Sunday, because of the outbreak.

If all deaths are confirmed to be Ebola, it will make this the most deadly outbreak since the 2007 epidemic, which caused the deaths of 187 people in Luebo, in Congo's Kasai Orientale province.

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